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Three of Our Favorite LA Commencement SpeechesPosted
As this school year's commencement season comes to an end, we wanted to congratulate all the accomplished graduates out there, and share some of the powerful words from a number of commencement speakers — including comic actor Ego Nwodim; poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou; and media titan and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey — throughout the years here in the Los Angeles area.
This past May, USC Dornsife alumna Nwodim addressed USC Dornsife's 2022 graduating class. Nwodim touched on the moments of failure she has experienced throughout adulthood, and how they taught her the importance of improv comedy’s "Yes, and…” philosophy. What you do when faced with failure, she emphasized, will make all the difference. She also encouraged graduating students not to compare their path with others, but to embrace the uniqueness of their journey through life. "People can do the things you do,” she said, “but no one can do it like how you do it."
In 1992, Maya Angelou addressed Occidental College's 105th class of undergraduates. Angelou opened her speech by encouraging bravery: "You cannot be consistently kind or fair or just or generous or merciful – without courage."
Courage, Angelou emphasized, is the virtue that allows one to practice the other virtues. She then closed her speech with a call to action, emphasizing that each graduate's ancestors had paved the way for them without knowing them, just as they have to for those to come. "You have been paid... by time... It seems to me very clear… it is upon you, then to go out and pay for someone who is yet to come.”
In 2018, Oprah Winfrey addressed USC Annenberg graduates. She acknowledged that although it is impossible to "fix everything," it is essential to fight against the danger of cynicism. After highlighting the importance of hope and courage, Winfrey posed a question: “What are you willing to stand for?" And how to answer it? "You put your honor where your mouth is." Winfrey reminded the graduates that to make change in the world, they must take action and keep their word.
For those of you reading this who are recent grads, as you embark on your journey into adulthood, we hope that some of the words above resonate with you. Remember to be courageous, to say "yes, and..." when faced with failure, and to "put your honor where your mouth is."